Edward Beatty, front row right, and John Dennis, behind him, speak with Mennonite girls. Dennis was a young man in 1874 who witnessed the Mennonite immigration to Manitoba. Over the next decades, he observed that the Mennonites were honest, hardworking and trustworthy farmers. By 1922, he was a commissioner of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He convinced Beatty, his boss, to extend credit of $400,000 to bring Mennonites from Russia to Canada based on a handshake with Bishop David Toews and the Mennonites’ good name. The amount grew to $1.7 million. At a service in Coaldale, Alta., in 1938, B.B. Janz, a Mennonite leader, said, “Not just one generation was saved, but also their children and the generations to come. In the midst of a world full of suspicion and ill will, . . . Colonel Dennis, you have continued with trust and confidence. . . . We thank you for this confidence and faith.” Dennis struggled to keep his composure as a group of teenaged girls laid bouquets of flowers at his feet, saying, “You saved our lives. Thank you.”
For more historical photos in the Mennonite Archival Image Database, see archives.mhsc.ca.